The Lord: I can’t go
1The Lord said to Moses, "Go and leave this place, you and the people whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt. Go to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I’ll give it to your descendants.’ 2I’ll send a messenger before you. I’ll drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 3Go to this land full of milk and honey. But I won’t go up with you because I would end up destroying you along the way since you are a stubborn people."
4When the people heard the bad news, they were sorry. No one put on any jewelry, 5because the Lord had said to Moses, "Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stubborn people. If I were to go up with you even for a single moment, I would destroy you. So now take off your jewelry, while I figure out what to do with you.’" 6So after leaving Mount Horeb the Israelites rid themselves of their jewelry.
Speaking with the Lord at the meeting tent
7Moses took the tent and pitched it outside the camp, far away from the camp. He called it the meeting tent. Everyone who wanted advice from the Lord would go out to the meeting tent outside the camp. 8Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand at the entrance to their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. 9When Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down and stand at the tent’s entrance while the Lord talked with Moses. 10When all the people saw the column of cloud standing at the tent’s entrance, they would all rise and then bow down at the entrances to their tents. 11In this way the Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, like two people talking to each other. Then Moses would come back to the camp. But his young assistant Joshua, Nun’s son, wouldn’t leave the tent.
Moses pleads with God
12Moses said to the Lord, "Look, you’ve been telling me, ‘Lead these people forward.’ But you haven’t told me whom you will send with me. Yet you’ve assured me, ‘I know you by name and think highly of you.’ 13Now if you do think highly of me, show me your ways so that I may know you and so that you may really approve of me. Remember too that this nation is your people."
14The Lord replied, "I’ll go myself, and I’ll help you."
15Moses replied, "If you won’t go yourself, don’t make us leave here. 16Because how will anyone know that we have your special approval, both I and your people, unless you go with us? Only that distinguishes us, me and your people, from every other people on the earth."
17The Lord said to Moses, "I’ll do exactly what you’ve asked because you have my special approval, and I know you by name."
18Moses said, "Please show me your glorious presence."
19The Lord said, "I’ll make all my goodness pass in front of you, and I’ll proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord.’ I will be kind to whomever I wish to be kind, and I will have compassion to whomever I wish to be compassionate. 20But," the Lord said, "you can’t see my face because no one can see me and live." 21The Lord said, "Here is a place near me where you will stand beside the rock. 22As my glorious presence passes by, I’ll set you in a gap in the rock, and I’ll cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. 23Then I’ll take away my hand, and you will see my back, but my face won’t be visible."